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The Scriptorium


There will always be enemies. Ezra 4.17-24

Return from Exile: Ezra 4-6 (2)

Pray Psalm 125.1, 2.
Those who trust in the LORD
Are like Mount Zion,
Which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
So the LORD surrounds His people
From this time forth and forever.

Sing Psalm 125.1, 2.
(St. Gertrude: Onward, Christian Soldiers)
All who trust in Jesus, strong as Zion stand!
Naught shall ever move them from their promised land!
Like the hills surrounding safe Jerusalem,
Christ surrounds His Church and holds her in His mighty Hand!
Refrain, v. 1
All who trust in Jesus, strong as Zion stand!
Naught shall ever move them from their promised land!

Read Ezra 4.1-24; meditate on verses 17-24.

1. What did Artaxerxes discover in the archives?

2. What did he do in response?

I suspect that the Samaritans who wrote to the king hoped that he would be guided by their slanders to look for evidence supporting their accusations, and that he would look no further.

Which is what he did. Artaxerxes would not take the time to search the archives himself. He commanded others to do so and must have told them what to look for against the Jews (v. 19). Well, they found what they were looking for, at least, to some extent. They found enough, at any rate, for Artaxerxes to command a stoppage to the building work in Jerusalem (vv. 18-21).

Imagine how smug and self-righteous those Samaritans must have felt as they delivered the king’s letter in Jerusalem. Just to make sure the people of God got the message, they came with arms to enforce the king’s decision (v. 23). And so the work ceased, at least for two years (v. 24). After that, a new king would read a little further in the archives, to the great chagrin of the enemies of the Lord.

At bottom, what the enemies of the Lord want is to frustrate the work of the Kingdom of God. If they can’t subvert it or divert it, they’ll turn to politics and threats. We must constantly guard against becoming captive to ways of doing the Lord’s work that do not have the sanction of His Word and that play into the treachery of our foes.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“We inform the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the result will be that you will have no dominion beyond the River” (Ezra 4.16). Ah. So, it really wasn’t about anything other than power.

As Lord Acton, the 19th century British politician observed, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” And their power was doing just that. For the moment.

From the beginning of time, it has been thus. Our enemy, the one who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5.8) is still after the Church and the people who dwell therein. And his strategy never changes: “Did God really say that? Did He really say you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen. 3.1). Always misrepresenting the truth, tweaking it just a bit, to mislead the uniformed, or to encourage the disingenuous.

When are we ever going to catch on? God gave the entire garden of Eden to Adam and Eve, full of beautiful trees and food and docile animals, scenery beyond description, waterfalls, rivers, perfect weather, exquisite beauty, peace, and joy. They had fellowship with God. Perfection. And for a little extra knowledge, a little more power, a little more of a little more, they gave it all up.

And the enemy smirked with delight as he said, “Caught you! Now you’re captives.”

And he, like the enemies of the people of God in Jerusalem, maintained his power.

The antidote for succumbing to this power grab found either within our own hearts, or without by our enemies, is this: live according to God’s economy and rule. Choose to have a servant’s heart, like our Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 2.5-7). Choose to imitate Him (1 Cor. 11.1).

“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away…be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Pet. 5.2-9).

Stoppage—of the enemies of God.
Not of His Church or His people.
“For Yours is the Kingdom and the power
And the glory forever. Amen” (Matt. 6.13).

For reflection
1. What kind of opposition do you expect to experience as a believer? How should you prepare for this?

2. How much do you know about Christians who are being persecuted today? How could you find out more? Pray for our persecuted brethren.

3. Whom will you encourage today to stand firm in the Lord in the face of opposition?

The king suffered himself to be imposed upon by these frauds and falsehoods. Princes see and hear with other men’s eyes and ears, and judge things as represented to them, which are often done falsely. But God’s judgment is just; he sees things as they are.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Ezra 4.6-24

Pray Psalm 125.3-5.
Give praise and thanks to God that He preserves you and all His people, even through the most difficult of trials. Offer your day to Him and yourself as a living sacrifice for building His Church.

Sing Psalm 125.3-5.
(St. Gertrude: Onward, Christian Soldiers)
Wickedness shall rest not on this holy land.
Sinfulness shall never come forth from their hand. 
Trusting in the Savior, firm in His caress,
ever shall His favor on this holy city rest.
Refrain, v. 1
All who trust in Jesus, strong as Zion stand!
Naught shall ever move them from their promised land!

Lord, do good and care for those upright in heart.
All who turn to evil shall from You depart.
Sinful men may increase, on their way to hell!
Save Your people, let your peace abound in Israel!
Refrain v. 1

T. M. and Susie Moore

Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.

Support for Scriptorium comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available free by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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